Siargao’s tireless lady Earth warrior

By RJS 

Author with Bantay Dagat volunteer Medelina Cormenal. PHOTO/ Dexter Morilla

At 66 years old, Medelina Cormenal, a widow, don’t like to slow down or give up with her current volunteer job: a Bantay Dagat sea security guard leader, community organizer and active officer of the Barangay Rizal Fisherfolk Organization in the town of Santa Monica, Siargao Island.

The organization put up a marine-fish sanctuary of the said village a few years back with the support and assistance of the local government.

Nearly all her life, Cormenal had joined or organized a few community organizations to find meaning and put substance to her life.

“I have always been a believer that two heads or more plus action can make a difference to everyone lives, as a community, not individually,” she declares.

Asked what a Bantay Dagat job entails, she answered, “we make sure there are no intruders or law-breakers coming inside the sanctuary, day and night.”

A group of five or more forms a team patrolling on a pump boat assigned around the sanctuary and at the watch tower.

“If we caught one or three intruders, which we often do, we tell or remind them not to do it again or they are reported to the police,” she quipped.

Most of the law-breakers, she noted, are from other towns or fishing grounds.

“You cannot help it, there are really people who are hard-headed and refuse to understand what we are doing is for our people’s own good and wisely conserve our sea resources,”Cormenal said.

What are the personal challenges that she faces? “My family and neighbors tell me to slow down or give up now as they said I am no longer young. But I feel no difference when I was much younger,” she defended.

They are apprehensive especially when she joins night-shifts and never complains. “It’s a call of duty regardless of time and since it’s a commitment I am ready, willing and able.” She is humbly proud to be of good health and physical standing.

Being a senior member of the organization, her voice and experience are always looked up and considered.

“If she’s not around during meetings and outdoor work, we sort of feel incomplete because she has element of wisdom we listen to and learn,” says one male member.

Cormenal impressed this writer for her down-to-earth charm and simplicity, sharpness and confidence. She could easily be a university professor, a class of her own.

She may not be a member of the “rich Asian set” but she surely surpasses them all with strength, selflessness and bravado.

 

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